IATP’s Karen Hansen-Kuhn is blogging from the UN climate talks in Durban, South Africa.
Climate chaos seems to be increasing all over the world. In my home in Virginia, we experienced a hurricane in August that knocked out power in many communities up the East Coast, and several days of record-breaking temperatures in November. While this kind of weather is mostly an inconvenience or a pleasant surprise for us, erratic weather patterns in other, more fragile environments can be devastating.
I met with farmers from Mozambique, Mali and the Gambia at the C17 Peoples’ Space, parallel to the official climate talks in Durban. They were part of a delegation from La Via Campesina, a global movement of small-scale farmers. One by one, they told us of rains that now come too early, too late or not at all. Corn they plant after early rains gets burned by the scorching sun. Seeds they plant later get washed away in late rainstorms. Rivers have disappeared, lakes have dried up. One young woman has listened to elders in her community talk of regular planting seasons, but she has never seen them in her lifetime.
We discussed proposals to cope with climate change, starting with projects designed to capture carbon in trees or the soil for sale in carbon markets. IATP has worked with allies in Kenya to track a pilot program designed to create a new market for soil carbon. While the project has led to improvements in soil quality, it is premised on sales to a non-existent market for soil carbon. This could distract attention from the need for reliable support for agricultural adaptation, and even divert much needed resources at the national level to setting up these programs. One participant commented that when elephants fight, the grass (in this case, farmers) gets trampled.
As I flew back from Bonn last week, on my way back from the Bonn 2011 Nexus Conference (16–18 November), one thing was clear to me. Corporate environmentalism is entrenching itself firmly in the corridors of global governance, and challenging its advance will require new strategies. The "in-your-face" approach of yesterday is being replaced with a softer, albeit more dangerous "corporate responsibility" garb. This softer path also seeks to ensure that civil society stakeholders are seen as party to the decisions.
The Bonn Nexus conference is symptomatic of the way that corporate environmentalism is developing. "The water, energy and food security nexus, Solutions for the Green Economy," as it is called, is an initiative of the federal government of Germany to develop specific contributions to the Rio+20 Conference. It is an important event because this is the first of several nexus conferences being planned to gain political support for advancing the green economy at Rio+20. The next follow-up conference is being organized by World Economic Forum and will be held in January 2012.
In its recognition of a "nexus," these conferences could be seen as a step forward. Two years ago, when we published a report on the need for integrated solutions for the water, climate and food crises, the idea of connections between these three sectors was simply not on any official agenda.
IATP’s Steve Suppan is blogging from the UN climate talks in Durban, South Africa.
A bargaining chip is usually something withheld to get consent for something bigger, not smaller. The United States (and Saudi Arabia) blocked consensus on establishing a Green Climate Fund (GCF) for the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change at an October 18 meeting in Cape Town, South Africa. The U.S. would not agree to establish a financial mechanism for the $100 billion in climate change project investments promised at the 2009 UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP) until a long laundry list of demands were met.
Chief among the demands was that the UNFCCC not have oversight of the GCF and that there be a private sector facility for corporations to access public money for use in projects that would not have to be approved by the countries where the projects would be carried out. The end of the Kyoto Protocol, which requires developed country parties to commit to binding reductions in greenhouse gases, is also among the bigger goals the U.S. seeks to achieve in Durban, South Africa. Therefore, withholding approval of the GCF, and money to operationalize it, are key U.S. bargaining chips.
In response, IATP and other civil society leaders helped draft a letter, signed by over 160 organizations and released earlier today, exposing the U.S. government’s obstructionist role in the negotiations over the GCF. A backgrounder issued earlier this week, outlines IATP and other civil society organization’s concerns about efforts to replace the Kyoto Protocal.
As the global climate talks began this week in Durban, South Africa, IATP joined more than 100 civil society organizations in calling for countries to reject efforts to place agricultural soils within a carbon market. In Durban, negotiators will consider whether to approve a separate agriculture and climate work plan. Such a program “would lead to agricultural soils and agroecological practices being turned into commodities to be sold on carbon markets, or used as sinks to enable industrialized countries to continue to avoid reducing emissions,” the groups wrote in a letter to negotiators. Instead, the groups called for developed countries to fulfill their commitments for climate finance with direct annual contributions to the U.N.’s Adaptation Fund. You can read the full letter and the press release.
The Africa Biodiversity Network, ActionAid Kenya, the Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance and IATP held a workshop in Thika, Kenya in late October to discuss what is at stake for food producers and African agriculture as African governments head to the global climate talks in Durban in a few weeks to decide whether to launch an agriculture work program. Representatives of 55 civil society organizations including farmers organizations such as the Network of Ecofarming in Africa (NECOFA), the East African Farmers Federation, the NGOMA campaign (a food security campaign of smallholder maize and dairy farmers), and community- and faith-based development organizations such as the Anglican Church of Kenya-Western Region Christian Community Services, came together to discuss the politics of agriculture within the climate talks, the notions of “climate-smart agriculture” and what soil carbon offsets could mean for Kenyan agriculture and its food producers.
Over the last month, U.N. agencies, Member States and civil society groups have been busy: they made well over 600 contributions toward Rio+20, the next United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (U.N. CSD), to be held in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012. The inputs submitted by the stakeholders will be assembled into a compilation document by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), where a Rio+20 Dedicated Secretariat has been established to support the U.N. CSD bureau in steering the preparatory process leading up to Rio+20. The compilation document will form the basis for developing the draft that will be negotiated at Rio+20.
As I said in an earlier blog, Rio+20 will mark the 20th anniversary of the first Earth Summit, held in the same city where heads of states came together to address what was then seen as the priority issue: environmental limits to development. If anything the situation is much worse now.
Earlier this month, not far from the site of Occupy Wall Street at Liberty Plaza in New York, a small group of people gathered; they too were engaged in a conversation about systemic change in the face of some of the challenges faced by the world today, specifically global food and water insecurity, financial crisis and climate change. IATP was invited to be a part of the “Global Transition 2012, New York Dialogue,” an effort to provide input to Rio+20 (read "Rio plus 20), an international conference scheduled to take place in Brazil next summer. Co-organized by Stakeholder Forum, New Economic Institute and New Economic Foundation, the ‘Global Transition 2012’ Initiative will use the results of this dialogue as input for its policy proposals and advocacy in the lead up to Rio+20, so that these recommendations are included in the negotiating text and final outcome document.
The Rio conference will mark the twentieth anniversary of the first Earth Summit, where heads of states came together to address what was seen as the priority issue at the time: environmental limits to development. They sought to develop a global framework to chart a path for “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” (IATP participated in the first Earth Summit with a focus on environment and trade.) Sustainable Development became the buzzword in development efforts in the following decade, with the three pillars: economic, social and environmental development.
In the global climate talks agriculture is a peripheral issue, despite the serious impacts rising temperatures will have on crop production worldwide and significant emissions that come from the agriculture sector. Negotiations on agriculture within the UNFCCC arena are currently taking place under the heading “Cooperative sectoral approaches and sector-specific actions in order to enhance the implementation of Article 4, paragraph 1(c), of the Convention,” along with the topic of bunker fuels – fuels used in aviation and shipping.
The meeting in Panama completed over the weekend was the last before the next Conference of the Parties (COP) meeting in Durban, South Africa in December. Panama saw little progress on the issue of agriculture, as most of the meeting was devoted to procedural maneuvering. A group of countries (India, Brazil, China, South Africa, Argentina, Venezuela, Bolivia, Uruguay, Egypt, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Ecuador and Nicaragua) started the week’s negotiations by proposing text for the general framework provisions of the document – general framework text that would be applicable to any of the sectors that could be considered under this particular heading: transport, waste management, energy, agriculture, forest, and industry.
The proposal was met with some consternation on the part of several developed countries, the U.S., Canada and New Zealand in particular, who are keen to establish a work program on agriculture under the Subsidiary Body on Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA). Their enthusiasm for an agriculture work program is not shared by most developing countries, reflected by the emphasis they placed during the week on negotiating the general framework text, rather than the agriculture-related portion of the document.
IATP’s Karen Hansen-Kuhn was in Panama City last week for negotiations on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Climate change delegates and advocates from around the world were in Panama last week to make progress on the UN climate talks before the Durban Conference of Parties in December. They debated a lot of tough issues, especially how to pay for climate change adaptation and mitigation in an era of tight budgets. Carbon markets have been held out as a way to “leverage” private sector funds for deforestation, energy and other much needed projects. Last year, the World Bank’s BioCarbon Fund launched the Kenya Agricultural Carbon Project, as a pilot project on soil carbon sequestration and to bring agriculture into carbon markets. IATP, ActionAid and the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) held a packed side event at the Panama talks to challenge that idea and refocus the debate on the urgency of finding realistic solutions to climate chaos and food production.
Tomorrow, IATP will join millions of people in 176 countries in Moving Planet, a coordinated a day of activities to advocate for a sharp reduction of greenhouse gases and other sustainable solutions to climate change. The activities will range from bike marches, prayer services, workshops, lectures, presentations of petitions, press releases and concerts. IATP will be at a Moving Planet event on the grounds of Minnesota’s state capitol building in St. Paul.
One of the issues we’ll be talking about there will be finance: how do we pay for a global shift toward a low carbon economy? Over the past three years, IATP has focused on problems with using carbon emissions markets to address climate change, particularly as these markets relate to agriculture. Earlier this month, we published our analysis of the World Bank’s model project in Kenya for reducing greenhouse gases. The project would pay farmers an average of one dollar per year for 20 years to practice Sustainable Agricultural Land Management to sequester carbon emissions in soil. The World Bank would buy the results of the farmers’ work at $4 per metric ton of carbon emissions, converted into carbon emission offset credits to be sold to major polluters to help them comply with greenhouse gas caps without having to actually reduce their own pollution. Because the science of measuring soil carbon is fraught with uncertainties, the World Bank discounts 60 percent of the result of the farmers’ work, although the carbon accountants doing the monitoring and verification of that work will be paid well and in full.